The Pros and Cons of Unschooling: Is It Right for Your Child?

Apr 5, 2018 by

Unschooling is a form of homeschooling – conceived by Scottish writer A.S. Neil and popularized by John Holt – that allows the child to learn naturally, without a daily rigid structure or an overbearing authority. The parent offers guidance, reinforcement, and knowledge, while the child chooses and explores their own path, learning at their own pace.

Of course, this type of schooling will not suit every child or situation and is just one of several methods that aim to reach the same end.

Is this right for you and your child? Lets take a closer look at the pros and cons.

The Pros of Unschooling

1) Freedom

A core belief of unschooling is that not all children suit the modern classroom environment because of its tight structure and top-down authority. Homeschooling gives children the undivided attention they need and unschooling lets them play to their own interests, at a natural pace. Theres no being overlooked by a teacher who is too busy with tens of pupils at once, and if math isnt being understood that day, then it can be picked up again another day and in a different manner.

This freedom can also benefit the family who can plan schooling around other obligations. A doctors appointment can be made at any time because the child is not at school. A field trip can be done on a whim, because its just you and your child, and they will get more out of it because they arent beholden to a larger group.

2) Real World Learning

Unschooling is about being in the real world, not a contextless classroom that relies on textbooks. This allows a child to truly learn the facts from hands-on experience, rather than simply being told what to think. For example, sums might be taught and reinforced during a trip to the grocery store or basic science out in nature.

This is the normal, natural way of learning that takes place before a child goes to school. Unschooling simply continues that process into the teenage years.

Advocates argue that drilling and regurgitating so-called facts – a large element of regular schooling – does not help a child understand, rather it simply tests their memory. Unschooling aims to help a child understand through real-world experience.

3) Less Stress

While the child is not constantly expected to meet grades and targets, parents too are not beholden to the school curriculum or certified teaching standards. This reduces stress all around. The focus is on true learning for the sake of learning, and the child and parent are free to explore various subjects together at their own pace and in their own way.

Even just the freedom to have an extra hour in bed can reduce stress and add to the productivity of the day.

4) Saves Time and Money

Significant time is saved unschooling because it cuts out all of the admin and regimental activities like roll call, homework collection, and even just the traveling too and from the school. Money is also saved on daily lunch money, travel, special uniforms, and other common costs.

5) Bonding

Because unschooling is usually done within the family it allows extensive time for bonding between child and parent and siblings. Everyone grows and learns together, and everyone is therefore much more in-tune with each other. Simply put, the family unit is much stronger.

Learning Isnt a Chore

School is usually fun in the beginning but eventually, all children grow to dislike it. They view it as a necessary evil, something they have to do but dont really want to. While some have the forethought to work hard for future gain, others give up early on.

Unschooling approaches education through guidance and encouragement, putting learning opportunities in front of the child without forcing or controlling. Everyone has a natural inclination to learn and everyone has interests. Regular schools cookie-cutter approach can stifle these, while Unschooling fosters them.

The Cons of Unschooling

1) Lack of Structure is Difficult

The freedom of unschooling looks good on paper, but if as a parent you arent heavily involved, it can soon lead to laziness and failure to actually educate adequately.

You will need to spend a lot of time reading about the concepts and methods of homeschooling and unschooling before successfully implementing it. You will also need to be of a certain standard of education yourself.

2) No Standardized Testing

There is no standardized testing for unschoolers which makes it difficult to know how far your child has progressed and whether your teaching has been successful. If you decide to test your child at home or enter them into official tests independently, the scattered nature of unschooling might make this unsuitable.

Some parents will feel out of control without a quantifiable way of grading their children.

3) Judgment From Others

Invariably, choosing to teach your child at home is going to result in negative judgment from others, including friends and family. You will have to grow a thick skin and the ability to defend your choice. Your child may also feel a knock-on effect of this. For example, a child’s friend may relay a judgemental comment from their parent.

4) It Could Cost More

Regular schooling has its own costs, but homeschooling can be costly as well, especially if you choose to take years off work to focus on your child. Youre also likely to go on many more costly educational visits. Of course, there are many ways to make money fast and fund these things, but the cost is still an important consideration.

5) Spoiled and Unsocial Children

As much as unschooling can strengthen family relationships, it can also go too far and result in a spoiled parent-dependent child if youre not careful.

If you fail to arrange play dates and encourage your child to take part in group activities (e.g. sports), they might also miss out on socialization, which is extremely important in child development.

If you dont form a community with other homeschoolers, your child could also miss out on valued rites of passage like prom.

6) Legal Requirements

While homeschooling is legal in the United States, there can be substantial paperwork. Your state might also require some basic testing and formal tracking of teaching hours. This can all become quite stressful.

Ultimately your decision whether to unschooled your child will depend on your own circumstances. By taking in to account the above pros and cons, you should be able to make an informed decision about whats best for your childs education.

Are you a home or unschooled, or perhaps you dont agree with these methods? Let us know in the comments below!

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